Dark Nights Death Metal: The Multiverse Who Laughs #1 – Scott Snyder/James Tynion IV/Joshua Williamson, Patton Oswalt, Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti, Saladin Ahmed, Brandon Thomas, Writers; Juan Gedeon, Sanford Greene, Chad Hardin, Scot Eaton/Norm Rapmund, Thomas Mandrake, Artists; Mike Spicer, David Baron, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Hi-Fi, Sam Mandrake, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Another Dark Nights: Death Metal anthology unites an all-star collection of talent in this oversized issue, as we get close to the grand finale. How does this one stack up to the previous installments?
First up is a framing segment by the core series writers of Snyder, Tynion, and Williamson starring the Robin King. This enfant terrible wants to tell everyone a story, and naturally it takes place in the Dark Multiverse. He takes us through a unique collection of corrupted heroes, including a Martian Manhunter who decides to repopulate the world with Martians Xenomorph-style, and a world where another Lantern fell to Parallax. There’s even another evil Lois Lane, but with no real context. It’s a fun tease for what’s sure to be a twisted volume to come.
Next up is legendary comedian Patton Oswalt and acclaimed artist Sanford Greene on a story featuring, of all characters, Victor Zsasz. The twisted serial killer finds himself being transported to Arkham, but this is a very different Arkham. Overseen by a jolly old man named Gottlieb, it seems to want to heal its inmates through art therapy and sharing circles, and the warden is unfazed no matter how many atrocities Zsasz performs. There are some background horrors going on, but it’s not clear how much is in Zsasz’ twisted mind until a shocking ending that reveals the true purpose of the facility—and what it takes to truly reach it.
Next up, the iconic creative team of Palmiotti, Conner, and Hardin reunite for a tale of the super-pets, as Krypto returns from deep space to discover a much-changed world. He’s greeted by his fellow super-pets including Streaky, Beppo, Comet, and that most valuable of players—Bat-Cow! It seems Earth has been destroyed by something combining a zombie plague and rabies, and the Super-Pets may be the only survivors. There’s something gleefully bizarre about watching these characters in such a dark story—especially Bat-Cow, who gets the most absurd and gross moment of the story. But if you’re an animal lover, be warned—this one may not have the happy or light ending it would have in this team’s Harley run.
Saladin Ahmed and Scot Eaton’s story is a short one, reuniting Green Lantern and Green Arrow—possibly for the last time. Set on a world where the Guardians have essentially annexed Earth and put it under a fascist regime, Ollie is one of the last lines of resistance. He’s trying to escort some kids to safety when they’re confronted by a powered-up Hal, who has been ordered to bring them in dead or alive. This story is over almost as quickly as it begins, but Ahmed manages to infuse some nice emotion into only a few pages.
Finally, it’s Brandon Thomas and Tom Mandrake on a story focused on Steel in a world where Scarecrow’s fear toxin has covered the world and created a constant state of horror for the unmasked. A bit on-the-nose and timely! But it works, thanks to some great horror effects from a DC legend and a compelling metaphor about why John Henry Irons may be best equipped to survive this world. The surprising co-star came out of nowhere, but this six-page story packs a lot of intrigue into a small space and is probably the one I’d most like to see expanded on.
Overall, a solid package with some intriguing stories, although I don’t think any of them reach the highs of some past anthologies.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.